Back-to-School Bullying and Prevention
As fall approaches, some children and parents are looking forward to the new school year. Between getting a fresh batch of school supplies and reuniting with classmates, school can be a place of growth and positive interaction. But this is not the reality for all children going back to school. Some kids experience back-to-school anxiety from factors such as homework, academic expectations, peer dynamics, fitting in, or bullying. Among the various challenges kids face, bullying is one of the most serious issues that can lead to isolation, poor academic performance, emotional distress, and in the worst cases, even suicide. In this article we will discuss signs and tips on how to deal with school bullying.
The following signs are indications that a child is being bullied. Be aware of:
- Missing items such as clothes, school supplies, electronics, or other things of value
- Unexplainable injuries
- Frequent aches or sicknesses
- Faking illnesses to avoid going to school
- Changes in eating habits such as skipping meals or overeating
- Changes in sleeping habits including difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- Loss of interest in hobbies, loss of friends, or avoidance of social situations
- Decreased energy or social interaction
- Decreased self-esteem
- Self-destructive talk or behaviors such as self-harm or talk of suicide
Fortunately, there are ways to address, prevent, and deal with bullying. The following points are ways you can help a child you suspect is being bullied.
- Create a safe space for the child to open up. In many circumstances, it helps tremendously when adults have someone to talk to. This can be the case for a child as well. It is important to hold space for a child so they can feel like they can open up to you about any issue. Practice listening to your child without giving feedback right away. Give them the room to express their feelings and never negate what they have to say.
- Don’t minimize their feelings. Bullying should never be tolerated. Avoid telling your child to brush his or her feelings off and let it slide. It is important to validate their feelings. Let them know you are on their side and that their feelings matter to you. You want them to know that you prioritize their feelings and wellbeing over anything else.
- Encourage kids to pursue what they love. Get involved with the child’s life and get to know what they love. Showing interest in their hobbies shows that there is value in what they find important. This can boost self-esteem and encourage them to pursue the positive aspects in their life rather than focusing on bullying.
- Connect with school officials and parents of the bullies. Always report bullying when you see it. Approach school administrators kindly and firmly, with a calm delivery. Remember, teachers and parents can be your allies. As upset as you are, it is important not to point fingers or be accusatory and instead work together to find a solution.
- Show unconditional love and support. Remind your child that they matter and that there is nothing that can replace them. Having your support can boost their self-esteem and build resilience when things get tough at school.
- If necessary, find a different environment. If you have tried all of the above avenues, and your child is still being bullied at school or at an after school activity, finding a different environment may be the best solution. You do not need to teach your child to “suffer through no matter what,” or think that you alone are responsible for changing the culture of the place where the bullying is happening. Your priority is to take care of your child.
Bullying is a serious issue. If you are seeing signs of bullying or self-harm from a child, do not hesitate to seek immediate help. Our therapists at Counseling California are well equipped to address bullying and are ready to give your family the support you need. To find a qualified marriage and family therapist who can help support a positive back-to-school experience this fall, visit our directory!
Find a Therapist